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Over the weekend I had the opportunity to hear the CEO of one of Canada's largest companies speak about values, transparency, and self-awareness. Impressed by his outlook on business and responsible leadership, I was motivated to send him a note this morning, to explore interests in working with SoJo. This could be a very big deal - or nothing at all. I was excited and nervous all at once.

With no pre-existing relationship or shared contacts, I very carefully drafted a cold-email. A cold-email is an email where you reach out directly to someone of interest, without an introduction. Introductions are great, as they allow you to lend off the credibility of your mutual contact and can give your email priority among all the nameless messages; however when there is no mutual contact a cold-email is the way to go. Cold-emails can often feel like you're sending a message to the black hole - but if done right, can be incredibly successful.

Over the course of the last year and during my academic research that led to SoJo, I have sent hundreds of cold-emails. SoJo has been relatively successful with cold-emails. More than half of the content on http://theSoJo.net have come as a result of cold-emails. When going on our first cross-Atlantic networking trip, some of my most engaged and meaningful connections came as a result of cold-emails.

I am obviously a big advocate of cold-emails, and as such, SoJo has implemented a policy where we respond to all new incoming emails within a timely manner. However if you are not cold-messaging us, here are some insights that may help you overcome this fear:

Practice, Practice, Practice
Daunting initially, it gets easier with time. The more cold-emails you write, the better you get at articulating your message in a way that resonates with your audience. With no human contact, it can be very difficult to get the attention of your reader and compel them to take the initiative to respond to your message.

Be clear with your intentions
Everyone is busy. Be honest and state your intentions upfront. If you don't have a clear idea of why you're messaging this person, then perhaps wait until you confidently feel like you can lead a meaningful conversation that will offer value to the other party. You'd be surprised of the number of people willing to help, but it's your job to ensure they understand what you need.

Opportunity cost of waiting
You miss 100% of the opportunities you don't take. Ask yourself, what's the most you have to lose? The time you spent writing that email and disappointment that comes when you receive no response? The more you send, the better your probabilities of a positive response. Often we don't send a cold-email, because we're waiting for a warm introduction, or for the right time to sell our vision. Its ok if your product is not perfect or if you don't have all the answers. That's why you're reaching out to others to get involved.

Its OK to be nervous
While it gets easier with practice, if you're sending an email to someone whom you're excited to connect with, the nerves will still kick-in when you're about to click "SEND." That's ok. It serves as a reminder that you're still passionate about the work you do, and have the courage to put yourself out there. This is a good thing!

Write with no expectations
If I had to guess, I think my success rate on cold-emails is about 40%. Although I put an incredible amount of effort into drafting good cold-emails, with time, I've learned to let go of the expectations of a response. In my opinion, it is better to be pleasantly surprised, then sadly disappointed. People are busy. Some people don't acknowledge or read an email if it is not from someone they know. I personally don't think this is smart business, as we must be open to opportunities that present themselves in many forms -- but we must be mindful of the reality that exists.

Twitter is also cited as a highly effective way of building meaningful connections with strangers, and some of the suggestions above can be adapted for other forms of communication.

 


Comments

Joey
04/26/2012 19:21

Nice post. It leaves me wanting more. Woul you be willing to share some cold email examples that have worked? Nervous,
Joey

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Kanika
04/27/2012 17:03

Thanks for your comment. I will write an article on http://theSoJo.net with some samples. Will send you the link when complete.

Reply
07/12/2012 09:01

Great post Kanika! I like to structure my cold emails in the following format: credibility. value. call to action.
you can read more about it here: http://petersum.com/2012/07/12/effective-cold-emails/

Reply
09/16/2012 12:15

40% is a great response rate. Cold emails are a great way to reach out and meet people as long as they are personal. Here are two other sites with great tips.

http://thomaskorte.com/archive/how-to-cold-email/
http://www.davidgcohen.com/2011/03/06/the-perfect-email/

Reply
07/12/2013 13:31

Hi Peter,

Thank you for these links! Our other users could certainly benefit from checking them out.

Zainab

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07/04/2013 03:17

Hi, I have been following your site for quite some time and your insight about cold emails was quite good. As mentioned earlier, could you please provide examples of cold mails. I am a volunteer at my township for community forums and this will surely help me to foster meaningful acquaintances.

Reply
07/12/2013 13:30

Hi! Though I don't have any particular emails to show you as examples (or at least ones that I'm positive about!), see this article on our website: http://www.thesojo.net/effective-cold-emails/. Peter Sum talks about how you can structure your cold emails. Hope this helps!

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09/19/2013 05:02

Thank you so much for sharing. I have been looking for this resource for a while now. We have recently started our web design company and are looking for the best ways to write cold emails or follow up emails and this post sure has given us a great start. Thanks a gain for the post. Please advice if there are any other tips that can be used to effectively cold call or cold email.
Trey

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